84.5% of grants in community development fund went to PC ridings: Liberal leader
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont says leaked documents show province tracked grants by constituency
The leader of the Manitoba Liberals says leaked internal documents show the Progressive Conservative government has directed a disproportionate amount of cash to its own constituencies in a community grant program.
Dougald Lamont presented the documents at the Manitoba Legislature Tuesday and shared them with reporters.
The documents from the former Community Places Program — which provided provincial grants for improvements to community hubs — show 159 grants were given to Progressive Conservative ridings, out of 188 grants listed in total. That works out to 84.5 per cent of all grants.
The dollar figures in the documents amount to $3,034,268 awarded to Progressive Conservative ridings out of $3,528,305 total, or 86 per cent of money awarded through the program.
"If you break it down, they've got 66.6 per cent of the seats but 85 per cent of the projects. That's just in numbers [of grants]," Lamont said Tuesday.
"It's starting to look a little strange, and the fact is that it's really piling up in particular in certain rural constituencies, and not, say, in Winnipeg."
The dollar figures in the documents don't line up with the 2018-19 total provided by a provincial spokesperson in April. At the time, the spokesperson said the province spent $4,087,429 on the program last year.
Lamont said he received the documents from an anonymous source, not a freedom of information request. He wouldn't elaborate when asked by reporters how he obtained the documents.
The Liberal leader also provided a spreadsheet, which he said was created by staffers within the Community Places Program at the request of the province, breaking down each grant by constituency and party.
PCs hold majority of ridings: Premier
He says that's a departure from standard practice in the past, which organized projects by region, not riding.
"From what I understand, this is not the way Community Places has ever operated and it's been around for over 30 years," Lamont said. "It was run fairly, it was run in a non-partisan fashion, and it was basically done on merit."
Lamont asked Premier Brian Pallister about the funding ratio in question period Tuesday.
The premier said the majority of money went to Progressive Conservative ridings, because Progressive Conservative members hold a majority of seats.
"Because our party was fortunate enough to be supported by Manitobans in the last election, we represent most of the ridings and that would be the reason that the money goes to those ridings," Pallister said.
He brushed off Lamont's suggestion there's something untoward about the spreadsheet tracking grant requests by party and constituency.
"It might be because that's where the money went," he said. "It went to those ridings which are listed on the chart that he's just handed me."
The Community Places Program was one of seven legacy programs consolidated into the new Building Sustainable Communities Program last month.